Child of the Month: December 2013

December 2013: Brooke

Brooke ended her first evening at the Friday Night Club telling us she met a friend; something we had never heard her say before.

Brooke & Natalie
Brooke with Friday Night Club Founder Natalie Cernius

At 15 months of age, we learned our daughter Brooke would have challenges ahead of her. Now 16 and with a diagnosis on the autism spectrum, social interactions with peers are often difficult and distressing for her, many times leading to seclusion. As she entered her teen years, Brooke saw her sister socialize with friends and wanted to participate in “teenage” activities, but it was difficult to find a place where she would fit in. We knew there were many teens for Brooke to meet, there was just nowhere for this to take place. As parents, this affected us deeply. Then two years ago, through United Cerebral Palsy of Orange County (UCP-OC), we heard about the Friday Night Club.

Friday Night Club opened Brooke’s world. This bi-weekly event is a place where teens with disabilities feel welcomed and accepted. It gives teens with or without disabilities the opportunity to play games, watch movies, sing karaoke and simply spend time with one another in an inclusive and fun environment. Friday Night Club gives teens with special needs something to look forward to.

Every person deserves a place to belong and friends to share in their journey, and Brooke now has that. This club brought out positive emotions in Brooke we had never seen, and more than anything we see self-confidence. In addition to Friday Night Club, Brooke looks forward to UCP-OC’s therapeutic fitness and music classes, as well as respite with a trained UCP-OC employee, which also gives us a much needed break. UCP-OC has given our daughter a home.

Kershberg family
Kershberg Family

With your help, Brooke can continue to look forward to Friday Night Club and the other UCP-OC services she and nearly 4,000 Orange County children and families utilize throughout the year. The Friday Night Club is just one of the many programs UCP-OC offers to end the isolation that so many children and teens with special needs feel. Programs at UCP-OC serve the critical developmental, social, and emotional needs of children and teens with disabilities and provide much-needed support to parents and caregivers, including education and skilled childcare.

We invite you to join us in giving back to UCP-OC this season in gratitude for all UCP-OC has done for our daughter and her new friends. We are grateful for a place where teens can feel accepted for who they are. 

UCP-OC relies on your generosity to fill these critical gaps in services. Children, teenagers and young adults with special needs are a growing demographic in Orange County, and are often isolated and overlooked. Together we can foster friendship and acceptance for all children with disabilities in Orange County. Please help children and teens live a Life Without Limits by sending in your gift or going online to www.ucp-oc.org/give today.

Thank you for making a difference in the life of Brooke and her friends at UCP-OC.

Hilary & Mark Kershberg

P.S. Visit www.ucp-oc.org/give to make a gift today and watch Brooke’s video of her journey to friendship.

Child of the Month….and Volunteer of the Month

November 2013: Andrew & Natalie Cernius

With Thanksgiving coming up, we have much to be thankful for this month of November. We would like to kick off our month of thankfulness by featuring Andrew Cernius as our Child of the Month and Natalie Cernius as our first Volunteer of the Month!

We could not be more excited to feature these two wonderful people and the immense impact they have made at UCP-OC and alongside UCP-OC.

Andrew is 19 years-old and is the third child in the Cernius family. IMG_20131017_194249Andrew has autism and comes to UCP-OC for recreational classes. “He participates in Drawing and Painting and absolutely loves it and the new teacher is fantastic!”says his mother Poita. Recently he has gotten a job at Creative Solutions for Hope in their mailroom, which both he and his parents are very proud of. He loves bringing home his paycheck!

Andrew is also the founding member (and inspiration) for the Friday Night Club, something we have all grown to love at UCP-OC!  As the third child, Andrew became very close to his older siblings, and as they left for college his younger sister Natalie saw that Andrew was left without his friends. With this as her driving force, Natalie set out to create a time for teens with special needs like her brother to socialize with their peers, make friends and just have fun.

This November 21st Natalie will be honored by the National Philanthropy Day Board who is awarding her with the Outstanding Youth Award for the creation of the Friday Night Club and other philanthropic work throughout the community. More rewarding to Natalie and her family is what happened this past weekend. The Friday Night Club started 2 years ago, and this past Friday’s Halloween party attracted over 200 teens with special needs and typical teens that volunteer at the event.

Thank you Natalie for your idea to start this, and thank you Andrew for being her inspiration. With this idea UCP-OC been able to create a program for teens that is changing lives.

Drawing and Painting Class
Thursdays, 6:30pm
To sign up for Drawing and Painting Class please contact Cindy Escobar at cescobar@ucp-oc.org  

 

To find out more about the Friday Night Club and hear a teen’s story stay tuned for December’s Child of the Month with video!

Natalie and Andrew 

Have you heard of the Friday Night Club?

Teenagers are a growing demographic of special needs individuals in Orange County. This past summer, a mother daughter volunteer team, led by Natalie Cernius, formed a club and met a need that is often overlooked.

The Friday Night Club was created for the sole purpose of creating a safe place for upwards of 60 special needs teens and young adults to come, make friends, watch movies and spend time together. Natalie saw that her 17 year-old brother Andrew, who has autism, has few places or avenues in which to meet other teens like him. As her older siblings left for college, Andrew was left without his playmates, and his only friends. Poita and her daughter saw the need for a place for Andrew to “hang out” with friends just like typical teens do. This club that Natalie created gives special needs teens a place to thrive and become their own person in a safe environment.

Parents can see their children connect with peers right before their eyes, a dream many of them didn’t think would come true. They are grateful that their children have a place to go and belong. Their sons and daughters have gained independence and made leaps into their futures, because of the work Natalie and her mother have done.

Each time this club meets, a life is impacted. Natalie is making a difference in the lives of teens with special needs and helping them live a Life Without Limits.

Life’s a Journey With CP and Me

Hello everyone at UCP-OC!

What a month this has been, college really is such a whirlwind! Thankfully, I’ve kept myself busy planning an event here at Soka University in Aliso Viejo. Tomorrow night, there is a campus-wide movie showing of Beyond Limits that I am hosting alongside the Humanism in Action Club! For those of you who aren’t already familiar with Beyond Limits, it is a short documentary about Bonner Paddock, a man with Cerebral Palsy from OC and his daring climb to Mt. Kilimanjaro in 2008. The Life Without Limits Center is actually featured in the film as part of the main focus for Bonner’s motivation to climb Mt, Kili, pretty neat, huh? I am showing the film in order to bring awareness and support to centers like UCP-OC, and simply for fun…I think it will be a great way to meet people on campus, and share a bit about my own story and what it is like to have CP. I am kind of nervous, being the only freshman and all really trying something new like this, but I know once I get up there with a few others, I will be okay. 🙂

After the showing, we are going to raffle off a few posters and DVD’s and have a Q&A session with Bonner himself! I am so glad he can attend, because I think he’ll help really share more about our cause in supporting children with disabilities. Not only that, but it’s not often the star of a cool movie attends small events like these, so I am hoping we will have a good turn out! There are only about 450 students on campus right now, so it can’t really get more personal than that.

Also, the Soka HIA club is going to go to the Friday Night Club for Teens with Disabilities on December 2nd at the Life without Limits Center, so we are going to see if more people want to join us and even work on more projects for raising awareness (and maybe some money too!) for this cause. I am super excited to hang out with some cool teens, and get Soka involved as well! I think it is great to make new friends, and meet people from all different kinds of backgrounds. 🙂

So that’s the latest scoop on everything a college girl with CP is doing. I hope you all have a great Thanksgiving and holiday season!

-Katy